May 032014
At the museum, from above…And opinions

I posted this picture (taken from the blog posting that precedes this one) on an online forum — mostly to give the members a look at what a couple of new lenses could to.  More of a semi-technical posting than an art statement.


Click Image to Enlarge

Of course this invites comments on the aesthetics from both the well-intentioned and the clueless alike…Which is why I rarely post photos on forums.

I got this one: “I like the perspective on the 4th indoor shot, but I would tighten it up quite a lot. I’d crop away everything except mom, baby and the girder. I wouldn’t crop much from the bottom, don’t want to lose any of the stroller’s shadow. The round things at the ends of the girder would go though, as would the shadow coming in from the top.”

A follow-up post from the same person was a backtrack that decided not to backtrack:  “I didn’t say you had to tighten up the shot, I said ‘I would tighten up the shot.’ I just don’t see how the extra elements add anything to the sense of time or place. For me, the photograph is all about the baby and the mother. Everything else is a distraction.”  His would look something like this:


Click Image to Enlarge

And from a very superficial point of view he is correct:  It is about the woman and the baby.  But his framing leaves us with little else, and certainly not a hint of context.  To me, it ends up almost as a gimmick shot.

His concerns about not showing a “sense of time or place” should really be about his suggested cropping.  In my wider cropping you get a sense that this is probably a large public space.  His gives you non of that.  The sense of time is not absolute, but subjective or relative.  In the context of that larger public space, the connection between the woman and the child is even more apparent — a personal moment in the larger world.

The girder has an interesting look, but in his cropping it becomes a visual barrier:  There is nothing beyond.  There are some interesting shadows, but nothing that provides any context to the venue.  The girder constrains rather than expands.  Pretty much “Here it is”.  In the tradition of faux photojournalism.


I like the looser cropping of my original post.  For me, it works for two groups of viewers.

  1. For people familiar with the venue (granted, far less than 1% of the viewers), it illustrates the space.  You know what the shadows represent, at least in a general way.  And you also know how precious these moments are at a busy museum…In a minute or two, thirty people can be standing at this very spot.
  2. For those just looking at the photo afresh, there is a little more mystery.  Leaving the angle on the girder (to the left) gives the viewer a “way out”.  With the area left above the girder, the girder is no longer a visual barrier, but begins to define the “beyond”.  All of the area surrounding the woman and the baby becomes potential subject for speculation.


I often come across situations where I want to acknowledge people in my photos, but don’t want the viewer dwelling on the details.  There is room for debate on whether this is an effective approach, but it does reduce the emphasis on individual people — a sort of ephemeral objectification of the humans.

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

The Louvre

The Louvre



But one last note on cropping the original image…Perhaps I could have cropped out a wee bit of the distracting stuff along the right edge…

Click Image to Enlarge

Click Image to Enlarge

Apr 272014
Fujifilm X-Series Cameras

Normally I try not to focus too much on the nuts, bolts, and gear head aspects of photography.  But over the past year I’ve been transitioning into the Fujifilm X-series cameras.  The Fuji interchangeable lens bodies are “mirrorless”, which means that the sensor the captures the final image is also drives the electronic viewfinder and/or LCD display.  These bodies were designed from the ground up to use APS-C sensors (23.6 x 15.6 mm for Fuji) .  That’s not unique — Many digital single lens reflex cameras also use the APS-C sensor.  However, since almost all of them come from companies with legacies in 35mm photography (24 x 36mm) they have to accommodate larger lenses and a fairly large mirror box (behind the lens and containing a mirror for the optical viewfinder light path that swings up out of the way every time a picture is snapped).

Being designed from the start for APS-C, using an electronic viewfinder path (no mirror box), and not having to worry about decades of legacy 35mm full frame lenses, Fujifilm was free to start with a fairly clean slate.

Notes: (1)The blog software downsamples the images in a way that reduces the sharpness.  To see the photos more clearly click the image once with your mouse to fit it to the screen and a second time to bring it up to 100%. (2)All images were processed from in-camera JPEG files — which I normally don’t do but wanted to try out for this session.  The final images were “saved for web” to 50% of their original size in Photoshop.

Cameras and Lenses

This photo shows the X-T1 (the latest camera in the line, emulating in appearance a classic SLR and with direct physical control of major functions) with the new 10-24mm f/4 mounted, the X-Pro1 (the flagship model which was a groundbreaking* entry into the mirrorless camera world) with the 35mm f/1.4 lens mounted (one of the original three Fujifilm XF lenses), and the new 56mm f/1.2 lens.  I’ve had the X-Pro1 for a little over a year but the X-T1, 10-24mm, and 56mm are all very recent purchases.  To get a feel for the new equipment I made one of my Sunday morning trips to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy facility at Dulles airport.  To round out the kit, I also took the 35mm.

Fujifilm X-T1 with 10-24mm f/4; Fujifilm X-Pro1 with 35mm f/1.4; and 56mm f/1.2 lens.

Fujifilm X-T1 with 10-24mm f/4; Fujifilm X-Pro1 with 35mm f/1.4; and 56mm f/1.2 lens.

(* The groundbreaking X-Pro1 feature is the selectable optical/electronic viewfinder in addition to the LCD display.)

To The Museum…10-24mm f/4 Lens…

This was shot for Robert, a moderator on the Fuji-X Forum.  The camera is just a few inches away from the panel so the background just won’t make it into focus (see last photo in this post).  Lighting is difficult since the walkway runs east-west (we’re facing west) so almost as soon as the sun is up, the panels on the left are in shadow:

10-24mm lens @ 10mm; 1/1600 sec. @ f/8; ISO 400

10-24mm lens @ 10mm; 1/1600 sec. @ f/8; ISO 400

View from the observation tower facing north (right side of the tower in the photo above).  Extreme depth of field:

10-24mm @ 10mm | 1/170 sec. @ f/8.0 | ISO 400

10-24mm @ 10mm | 1/170 sec. @ f/8.0 | ISO 400

From the walkway along the east wall of the museum:

10-24mm @ 14.5mm | 1/40 sec. @ f/5.6 | ISO 1600

10-24mm @ 14.5mm | 1/40 sec. @ f/5.6 | ISO 1600

Under the east walkway/ramp…A gallery of engines that were never able to be displayed  before this facility was built:

10-24mm @ 10mm | 1/15 sec. @ f/8.0 | ISO 1600

10-24mm @ 10mm | 1/15 sec. @ f/8.0 | ISO 1600

From a point just to the left of the previous photo, looking across the facility:

10-24mm @ 13.2 mm | 1/10 sec. @ f/8.0 | ISO 1600

10-24mm @ 13.2 mm | 1/10 sec. @ f/8.0 | ISO 1600

From the floor of the museum with the Boeing 307 Stratoliner as centerpiece:

10-24mm @ 10mm | 1/30 sec. @ f/6.4 | ISO 1600

10-24mm @ 10mm | 1/30 sec. @ f/6.4 | ISO 1600

So the trick is to get the entire Concorde into a single frame:

10-24mm @ 10mm | 1/13 sec. @ f/5.6 | ISO 800

10-24mm @ 10mm | 1/13 sec. @ f/5.6 | ISO 800

An array of small satellites in the space hangar:

10-24mm @ 13.8mm | 1/18 sec. @ f/f/4.0 | ISO 1600

10-24mm @ 13.8mm | 1/18 sec. @ f/f/4.0 | ISO 1600

…56mm f/1.2 Lens…

Shallow depth of field for the jet engine in the “under walkway” shot above:

56mm | 1/90 sec. @ f/1.4 | ISO 800

56mm | 1/90 sec. @ f/1.4 | ISO 800

Detail of the Curtiss Helldiver (newly on the floor) using shallow depth of field for “subject isolation” — blurring the background:

56mm | 1/80 sec. @ f/2.0 | ISO 800

56mm | 1/80 sec. @ f/2.0 | ISO 800

The tailhook of the Helldiver.  You can see how narrow the in-focus zone is at this f-stop and distance:

56mm | 1/140 sec. @ f/1.4 | ISO 400

56mm | 1/140 sec. @ f/1.4 | ISO 400

…the Venerable 35mm f/1.4 Lens…

An overhead shot of a P-47:

35mm | 1/105 sec. @ f/2.0 | ISO 1600

35mm | 1/105 sec. @ f/2.0 | ISO 1600

Museum visitors:


35mm | 1/160 sec. @ f/2.0 | ISO 1600

35mm | 1/160 sec. @ f/2.0 | ISO 1600

The Helldiver from across the museum (cropped a little):

35mm | 1/105 sec. @ f/2.0 | ISO 800

35mm | 1/105 sec. @ f/2.0 | ISO 800

…And the Nokia Smart Phone…

The setup for the first of the museum photos.  That’s a Benbo Mini-Trekker tripod — perfect for odd shots like this:

Nokia Windows Phone | 1/1050 sec. @ f/2.2 | ISO 100

Nokia Windows Phone | 1/1050 sec. @ f/2.2 | ISO 100

Mar 222014

This camera, a Century Graphic, is quite literally “old school” for me — the same model I used when I started learning “serious” photography back at Lindsay (California) High School in early 1966.

Century Graphic Camera

Century Graphic Camera

It takes 120 roll film and depending on the film holder you use, will produce either a 6 x 7 cm (2 1/4″ x 2 3/4″) image (10 per roll) or a 6 x 9 cm (2 1/4″ x 3 1/4″) image (8 per roll).  This particular lens is a Schneider 80 mm f/2.8.  I also have a Schneider 100 mm f/3.5.

Everything about this camera is manual.  Focus is with the rangefinder on the side, through the ground glass on the back, or by estimated distance.  Shutter speed and aperture are set manually.  If you use the ground glass you can frame the shot accurately — otherwise you do the best you can with the viewfinder.  Not very fast — but I did manage to shoot high school football and basketball with one of these.

I’ve seen Century Graphics at used camera shows over the years.  If I picked one up I was always surprised at how much of the “muscle memory” I still had — learned when I was a freshman.  And so a few months ago I saw one for sale online (as it turns out, from a guy who really had a difficult time getting his act together*) and decided to buy it.  This particular camera is a little older than the one I used in school — it has a red bellows and a gray body while my school’s camera had the later black bellows and body.

These days you have to send 120 off to get it processed…And I’m not yet certain how I’ll scan the negatives.

[* Over a period two weeks after I sent him the funds via PayPal, he couldn’t seem to find a box to ship it in, even though the camera had been listed for over a year.  I finally ended up droving down to Raleigh, NC to pick it up and to put this sale out of its misery.]

Nov 102013
What you have attached to the front of your camera does alter your point of view

I’m building out my Fujifilm X-Pro1 kit and I was on the fence about the Fujifilm XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS.  When shooting for myself or traveling I rarely find a need for a lens longer than 90mm (in 35mm full frame equivalent field of view (FOV)).  The FOV on this lens is 82.5mm to 300mm — that far end not being a place I spend a lot of time.  Also, I’m not a fan of lenses that change aperture while they zoom.  Aperture, in most shooting, is the control that has the most impact on the “look” of the picture and many photographers prefer to have all the exposure controls stay the same over the zoom range, especially if they are using a hand-held light meter or are using flash units.

Space Shuttle

Space Shuttle Enterprise.  (100mm; 1/25 sec @ f/6.4; freestanding)

(Notes:  (1) Click on the images to see them more clearly — it makes a big difference.  The pictures in the blog body were automatically downsampled to lower resolution to fit the column width.  (2) All the larger images you see after the “click” were down-sampled in PhotoShop to 50% of original cropped size in order to save loading time.  (3) All the photos were shot with the Fujifilm X-Pro1 — all at ISO 3200 with the exception of the Boeing 307, which was shot at ISO 6400.)

Engine cowl detail.

Engine cowl detail of Dornier Do 335 A-1 Pfeil.  (172mm; 1/20 sec. @ f/6.4; freestanding)

On the other hand, constant aperture lenses are heavier and more costly.  The engineering is more complex, lens elements are usually larger, and that means that the lens, overall, needs to be beefier.  My Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II lens weighs 1,540 grams (3.40 lb).  The Fujifilm, on the other hand, comes in at only 580 grams (1.28 lb).  The Fuji is physically smaller, so hauling it around isn’t that much of a chore.  Both lens have optical image stabilization.

Self Portrait from Boeing.

Self Portrait from Boeing 307 Stratoliner…I’m the shape reflected in the propeller dome with the light at my feet.  Note the dust and lint.  (141mm; 1/40 sec @ f/8; freestanding)

Pondering the purchase, my research showed the Fuji lens was getting good reviews.  The image stabilization was reported to be very effective and the optics across most of the zoom range performed well.  Optical performance degrades a bit at the long end of the zoom, but that’s not as much of an issue for me.


Vought F4U-1D Corsair.  (149mm; 1/70 sec. @ f/5.6; freestanding)

So I wrote out a check (the advantage of shopping locally — PhotoCraft in Burke, VA) and the next day I visited the National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy facility near Dulles International Airport.  As some of you know, this is my lens and camera test venue.  The displays inside don’t change that much, but the lighting can be a real challenge….Fairly dim inside combined with the mixed-source lighting, so the photographer is presented with ample opportunities to really blow shots.  The longer and slower the lens — the more those opportunities present themselves.  (There are some photos from this session that will never see the light of your monitor.)


Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star cockpit.  (90mm; 1/17 sec @ f/5.0; supported by handrail)

So…Pictures close up.


Globe Swift GC-1A cockpit.  (200mm; 1/30 sec. @ f/6.4; supported by handrail)


Ryan PT-22A Recruit.  (156mm; 1/50 sec. @ f/4.5; freestanding)

Rotary Engine

Nieuport 28C-1 rotary engine & cowl.  Note the dust on the propeller.  (67mm; 1/15 sec. @ f/6.4; supported by column)

Tail Gunner position on the B-29 "Enola Gay".

Tail Gunner position on the B-29 “Enola Gay”.  (200mm; 1/40 sec. @ f/4.8; supported by handrail.  This is pretty much the extreme shot:  slow shutter speed, lens fully zoomed and wide open.  But the rivet and hinge detail still holds up well.)

Post Processing (PP):  Raw conversion by PictureCode’s Photo Ninja running inside Adobe Photoshop CS6 — includes Noise Ninja and some adjustment for detail and highlights.  Continued PP in Photoshop including conversion to a PSD file, curves (for a black point and, if available, a white point),  cropping,  color balance, etc.  A final pass with NIK Viveza 2, which gives you a last chance to see how the image looks and adjust lightness, saturation, shadows, etc.  Then saving for Web JPEG in PhotoShop.

Aug 012013

Checking out some new lenses…

The Udvar-Hazy facility of the National Air and Space Museum (at Dulles International Airport) is a destination for me whenever I need to check out new cameras and lenses…In this case, three lenses for the Fujifilm X-Pro1 camera:  The 12mm f/2.8 and 32mm f/1.8 Zeiss Touits and the 60mm f/2.8 Fuji.  Although I have some regular subjects (for repeatability) any visit can take its own course.

Click on any photo for a full screen view.  (File sizes range from 4MB to 7MB, so will take some time to load.)


Beechcraft D18S “Twin Beech” (60mm lens.  1/200 sec. @ f/2.8.  ISO 800)

Below the entrance overlook. Curtis P-40E “Warhawk” and Vought F4U-1D “Corsair”. (12mm lens. 1/30 sec. @ f/5. ISO 1600)

Curtis P-40 nose detail.  (32mm lens.  1/70 sec. @ f/2.8.  ISO 1600)

Curtis P-40E “Warhawk” nose detail. (32mm lens. 1/70 sec. @ f/2.8. ISO 1600)



King-Bugatti U-16 engine (Duesenburg) builder’s plate. (60mm lens. 1/180 sec. @ f/4.0. ISO 3200)


Republic P-47D-30-RA “Thunderbolt” below Vought OS2U-3 “Kingfisher”. (32mm lens. 1/18 sec. @ f/4.0. ISO 1600.)


Nose of Boeing B-29 “Superfortress” Enola Gay (note reflection of P-47D). (32mm lens. 1/30 sec. @ f/5.6. ISO 1600.)


Boeing 307 Stratoliner engine detail. (60mm lens. 1/90 sec. @ f/4.0. ISO 3200.)


Boeing 307 Stratoliner “Clipper Flying Cloud”. (12mm lens. 1/90 sec. @ f/5.6. ISO 3200.)


Concorde Fox Alpha, Air France (entire plane in one frame). (12mm lens. 1/20 sec. @ f/5.6. ISO 1600.)


Lockheed 1049F-55-96 “Constellation” (C-121C, West Virginia Air National Guard). (60mm lens. 1/210 sec. @ f/4.0. ISO 1600.)


Ariel-1 satellite (replica from parts). (60mm lens. 1/125 sec. @ f/2.8. ISO 1600.)


Space Shuttle “Discovery” hull detail. (60mm lens. 1/40 sec. @ f/2.8. ISO 1600.)


Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIC propeller blade and spinner detail. (60mm lens. 1/75 sec. @ f/3.2. ISO 1600.)


Grumman G-22 “Gulfhawk II”. (60mm lens. 1/55 sec. @ f/4.0. ISO 1600.)

Dec 302012
Dawn — Somewhere Out West…

Airplane window shots are problematic.  You’re typically shooting through three layers of glass and plastic.  Some of those surfaces are probably dirty.  Most of the surfaces are reflecting the other surfaces — and also whatever is in the airplane cabin, including your camera.

But there you are above dawn just breaking “somewhere out west”.  A full moon.  You have to give it a try.

Somewhere Out West -- Dawn from the air.

Somewhere Out West — Dawn from the air.

I shot this with a Panasonic DMC-TS3 which, thoughfully, has an “Aerial Photo” scene mode.  Holding the camera upside down for some shots to position the lens.  The real work is in post processing.  Noise reduction with Noiseware.  Curves, contrast and brightness in Photoshop.  Graduated ND filter effect with NIK Color Efex Pro.  Color balance back in PhotoShop.  A sharpness pass with NIK Sharpener Pro.  Final “save for web” in PhotoShop.  The two control points were the moon (keep it from turning into a solid white orb) and the terrain faces near the front edges of the engine nacelles (keep the details and sharpness of line).

P.S. Another reason, on coast-to-coast daylight flights, for picking a window on the right side westbound and on the left side eastbound.

Aug 182012

I’m always curious about new camera technology.  So I was intrigued when announcements came out last year about a camera where you didn’t have to worry about focusing when you took the shot…you could focus later.  “Shoot now, focus later”.

I had to wait about half a year for the software to be released for Windows, but I was finally able to preorder in July, 2012 and the camera arrived on August 13th.  I read through the information, checked the camera’s functions, took a few photos, posted some, and now have some observations.

How Light Field photography works, from the photographer’s perspective.

Light Field photography encourages you to produce an image with multiple subjects, or multiple points of interest on a single subject (other wise there is not much point in using Light Field).  You take the picture and when you post it on the Lytro site, viewers can click on different points in the picture.  The selected point will come into focus, and other areas will go out of focus.  Imagine a person standing with one arm towards you, elbow bent.  The viewer could focus on fingertips, wristwatch, elbow, shoulder, eyes, nose, ears, etc.  The selected part would be in focus, and other parts would be out of focus.

Here are a couple of examples.  The first is Scout.  Click on her nose, or the background to change focus.

This is just a bush with a spider web.  But you can click around for different focus points.

Without a doubt the worst ergonomics I have ever encountered in a camera. 

In over 40 years as a serious photographer I’ve used cameras ranging from 4×5 press cameras down to Minox subminiatures. Form really does follow function, and with some cameras you experience how the design of the camera influences and enhances the picture taking experience.  Hasselblads, the Olympus OM series, the Olympus E-1, Minox, Leica rangefinders, Arriflex cine cameras – to name just a few – use design to support the workflow and “thoughtflow” of the photographer.  Not the Lytro.

I can tell that the designers struggled with a way to make the camera “handy”, but still manage to fit in the zoom lens and provide a functional display while still ending up with a pocketable camera.  One of the challenges is that Light Field photography, despite the hype in the photo and computing media, isn’t about not ever having to worry about your shots being in focus.  Good Light Field photography demands that you think about what you are trying to communicate in your photograph, and then take advantage of the Lytro “gimmick” so that the online viewer can select the the different points of focus in the photograph.  And in practice that turns out to be a miniscule percentage of the photographs shot by real people in the real world.

To make the Lytro “sing”, great care must be taken in the composition of the photo.  That means that the Light Field camera will need an LCD display with a wide viewing angle,  is adjustable for different lighting conditions, and is large enough that you can be sure of your composition.  The Lytro is none of those.  The workaround for the limited viewing angle is to rotate the camera 90 degrees at a time to see if your eyes can get a better angle on the LCD.  There is no workaround for the other shortcomings.

That camera rotation, in turn, brings out another set of problems:  The dreadful controls.  This is the point where the designers should be fired.  The zoom control especially will change just through accidental handling, since its design seems to be more influenced by the iPod wipe screen control paradigm than by the needs of a camera user.  Though probably more expensive to manufacture, this control should have been in the form of two buttons that require “pressure”, not “presence”.

The Lytro cameras in the photo below look cool, and Lytro states that “form follows function”‘  The problem is that the function apparently isn’t real world photography of any type.  Want to find the zoom control?  Look at the gray camera…On the upper face, the fourth row of little rectangular “nubs” from the bottom.  You might be able to see some kind of shape there.  Each of those little basic raised nubs is about 2mm x 4mm.  On that fourth row are some even smaller raised things, each about 2mm long x 0.2mm wide, and probably less than 0.1mm high.  Those identify the zoom “control” area.  This works by pressure as you swipe you fingers sideways.  The location of you finger bears no relationship to how far the zoom lens is extended.  And you have to swipe, and swipe, and swipe to extend or retract the zoom fully.

Lytro Cameras (Image from

This isn’t hip, or leading edge…This is just plain stupid.

Normally I’m not one to go on and on about flip-out displays on cameras.  My favorite conventional camera is a Leica M9 – where the issue doesn’t even come up.  But camera position is absolutely critical for Light Field composition and that means that the photographer is going to find him/herself in unusual positions relative to the camera.  That speaks to the need for a display that can actually serve the photographer – who otherwise has to just guess and shoot.  The solution is some kind of articulated or hinged display.

Shoot now, focus later?

This is really deceiving.  It implies a more light-hearted, spontaneous shooting experience.  In fact, the horrible ergonomics might be excused for a simple snapshot camera with a zoom lens — if the quality of snapshots wasn’t so poor.  And I’m not just talking about pixel count here (which wouldn’t have been too bad 12-15 years ago).  As a snapshot camera, the image quality is very poor.  You’d have to smear a lot of something over the lens of your smart phone to get results as bad as the Lytro.  Take a look at these two pictures — One shot with the Lytro and the other shot with my Blackberry.

The photo below was shot with a Blackberry Bold.  It was downsampled to 27% of the original size to fit here.  There was no other post processing.

Snapshot with Blackberry

This next photo was shot with the Lytro.  The only post processing was to downsample the photo to 66.66% of the original size.

From Lytro

The reason for this comparison is to show that if you just want to take a quick picture, “Shoot now, focus later” is, frankly, B.S.  The depth of field with a smart phone camera is so deep that focusing isn’t going to be an issue.  And the quality of the Lytro image is so poor that you’re going to have a very bad looking picture from a $400 camera.  For a quick snapshot, use your smart phone, or go to your local camera store and get the cheapest zoom lens digital camera you can find, along with the cheapest 4GB memory card you can find.

What to do?

Lytro needs to decide what it wants to do.  The form and ergonomics of the first generation cameras points towards early adopters, snapshooters, and folks looking for a nifty $400 gadget.  These users will be less likely to produce compelling images.  Good Lytro images need careful composition, consideration of light, contrast, shape, and other factors.  Because the Lytro camera needs to be close to the subject in most situations, even small movements of the camera position can have a large impact on the final image.  To accomplish this, a serious tool (camera) is needed:  2 – 2.5″ hinged (not even fully articulated) display, fast fixed focal length lens (35mm field of view) — perhaps with a flip-down 1.4x converter, truly ergonomic controls, a few more controls for the display, exposure, etc.  That’s not a sexy camera to market.

And all of this might be a moot point.  How do you catch a person’s attention so they’ll be compelled to spend time mousing around an online picture looking at the different focus points?  If you were presented with 100 Lytro photographs online, would you look at each of the first ten images?  What about the next ten, and the ten following that.  Would you even get to the 100th image?

Meanwhile, I’m sending my Lytro back.

Aug 142011

It’s been a while…

I’ve got a new camera — a Fujifilm X100.  This is a bit of throwback, since it emulates the classic 35mm, fixed lens rangefinder cameras of the 60s, 70s, and 80s.  In practice, I think that the X100 will be both a complement to my Leica digital rangefinder camera, and a good camera to carry as the camera — when I don’t want all the other stuff.

With bad weather threatening today, I decided to take Metro down the the Phillips Collection.  I really haven’t taken the X100 out on enough trips so…

This first shot deals with my fascinations with motion and with mass transit.

West Falls Church Metro Station

Fujifilm X100, ISO 800, 1/6 sec, f/16

The gauze effect of the special shades at the Phillips Collection — looking onto the Hunter Courtyard.

Through a Window at the Phillips Collection

Fujifilm X100, ISO 400, 1/50 sec, f/5.6

And heading home on Metro, during a wait at one of the stations.

Metro Trains Halted in Station

Fujifilm X100, ISO 800, 1/9 sec, f/4.0

May 152011
My Ride (Retro/Industrial)

Just a little photo-diversion…Checking out a new camera (Fujifilm X100) with the scooter in the lower level of the Metro garage.

Piaggio MP3 500 (Shot with Fujifilm X100)

This started out as a normal color image, but was rendered in B&W in Photoshop using Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro.  The fill flash also lit up the reflective rim tape and speed tape.

Feb 132011
Sorry.  I can’t help myself.

This isn’t the usual kind of camera I’ve been acquiring lately, but I was looking for something that was very easy to carry around and would be resistant to hazards.  I hadn’t looked at Panasonic cameras recently after an uninspiring experience with a Lumix LM2.  Panasonic chose to invoke noise reduction even in the RAW files (an action which prompted an online petition drive) and the overall performance wasn’t all that great.  The only happy news from the experience was that I sold it on eBay for more than I paid for it.

But on my recent short vacation back to Oregon, I got thinking on the need for a pocketable compact camera again.  My brother gave his wife a Panasonic and as I played around with it, I found that the user interface was acceptable, and the feature set allowed a certain amount of flexibility.  The things I didn’t like were the retractable lens and the startup delay that lens imposes.  Also, those retractable lenses represent a pathway for stuff to get inside the camera mechanism.

I spent a few hours online researching manufacturers sites and looking at reviews.  After visiting a few stores, I decided on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2

Some major factors in my decision were:  Wide-angle lens (the equivalent of a 28mm lens on a 35mm camera); weatherproof/waterproof; folded lens path (no delay on startup for the lens to extend); and optical image stabilization (I just think it’s a better solution to move one lens around than to move the entire sensor around).  Orange?  Since they didn’t offer it in black…

Folded Lens Path -- Allows Camera to be Sealed.

Early in January I went to my usual test location — the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy facility of the National Air and Space Museum — to give it a try.  It’s not a brightly lit venue, and the lighting is mixed.  This puts you right at the edge of a camera’s performance, so you can blow a shot without really trying hard.  A good place for a test.


There are some brief exposure notes under each image.  I used a monopod for all the shots, with the camera’s image stabilization turned on.  Post processing was in Photoshop; adjusting the curves (for white and black point), cropping a little, Noise Ninja, and some light sharpening

f/3.3 @ 1/10 sec, ISO 400

f/3.3 @ 1/13 sec, ISO 400, -1/3 stop

f/3.5 @ 1/20 sec, ISO 400, -1/3 stop

f/4.0 @ 1/5 sec, ISO 400, -1/3 stop

To be certain, there is no way that these images can reveal all the performance details of the camera.  Noise reduction is smeary and chunky — and you can’t turn it off and just use a post processing tool such as Noise Ninja.  In terms of image quality, the TS2 is nowhere close to what I can get with my Leica M8 and a Zeiss or Leica lens.  But I certainly find the results acceptable for the purpose of having a camera that’s handy and rugged.

And, naturally, a little over month after I bought my TS2, Panasonic announces the TS3.  The TS3 adds GPS and also has a little bit of a grip on the right side (the lack of a grip was mentioned in several TS2 reviews).  Oh well.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3

Jun 132010

When Equipment Drives the Results

Sports photography is one of those areas of the craft where the equipment really does make a difference.  (If you think you’ll get results from the kids’ soccer match like those shown in the Canon TV commercials without spending from $1,800 to $6,000 for each lens — you’re living in Fantasyland.)

I typically shoot soccer sitting on a folding stool.  One Nikon D300 on a monopod has a 300mm f/2.8 lens (often with 1.4x converter).  A second D300 mounts a 70-200 f/2.8 lens which, with a converter, weighs just under 7 pounds.  I shoot long shots with the 300, and when the action gets closer, I lean the monopod against my left leg, and reach down to my right and swing up the camera with the zoom (the 6 1/2 pound curl).

The problem with the original Nikon 70-200 is that the contacts (for camera-lens communication) tend to oxidize.  When this happens, the lens won’t auto-focus.  Some at Nikon, even after eight years, don’t readily acknowledge the problem, though it has been widely discussed online — especially among sports photographers.  The consensus solution is to use Caig DeoxIT to clean and protect the contacts on the lens and the internal connections.  Despite Nikon’s reluctance to accept the problem, the proof to many is that the DeoxIT works.  But you do need to clean the lens contacts regularly.  And I didn’t.

So for Saturday’s Majestics match the 70-200 fired about six shots — and stopped focusing.  Nothing I could do in the field helped.  So I was down to just the 300mm lens.

The team's first goal of the season.

The question is my mind is whether or not I would have made these shots if I had been switching back and forth between the two cameras.  The advantage is that with only one camera and lens, you just track the action all the time.  However, sitting just behind the goal line and near the corner, a lot of action is just too close, and the framing is difficult — and too tight.  On the other hand, there is no time lost switching between cameras.

The aesthetic and creative contradiction:  Shooting with just one lens simultaneously restricts and releases you.

May 162010

(Actually, about eight pictures.)

Here is a little background on the photos in my slideshow “Dawn” which ran on World Hum

Capturing dawn presents some technical problems – photographic and geographic.  A “dawn” picture may be taken before the sun comes up, or after.  But somehow it has to meet our expectations of what dawn looks like.

One of the difficulties is figuring out where the sun will be coming up.  NOAA has a great web site that lets you calculate matters solar.  One thing you can do is calculate the azimuth of the sun (the point at or above the horizon, expressed as an angle, measured clockwise from north) observed from any particular point (e.g. If I’m standing at the corner of the Metro parking garage at sunrise, which direction will I face to see the sun as it rises, or an hour later, etc.).  Operationalize this information a couple of different ways:  (1) With a decent handheld compass, you can line up your camera in advance to capture the rising sun; or (2) by using Google maps, you can identity landmarks that can be used to align the shot.

Here is info on the pictures.  You can copy and paste the latitude and longitude into Google Maps to see some of my shooting positions:

Opening picture: I was looking for a general shot and figured that shooting across the water would be good.  I went to Google Maps and looked for a location down the Potomac from Washington, DC that would give me clear shot.  I picked the Virginia shore looking towards Fort Washington, MD.  The very faint light-colored vertical object near the water under the sun is the Fort Washington Light.  I selected a shooting position just off the bike path to Mt. Vernon using the NOAA site.  (38.711318, -77.051588) (Nikon D300 on tripod with Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 lens; 1/250 @ f/8, ISO 800, 19mm.)

Philadelphia: This is one of those shots that makes you glad you remembered to take your camera along.  I was on a business trip and looked out the window early in the morning.  (Voigtlander Bessa rangefinder film camera, handheld with Voigtlander 35mm f/2.5 lens.)

Commute: I tried this shot the week before from the top deck of the Metro parking garage in Vienna — but the sun was a little too far to the right (over that clump of trees).  I went to the NOAA site and found out that the following weekend was probably my only chance from that location until autumn.  On shooting morning I set up the tripod and made shots over a period of time.  I collapsed the tripod and had put it in the car when I looked back, and saw this.  No time for a tripod, but I used a stabilized lens.  (38.878309, -77.272347 ) (Nikon D300 handheld with Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens – stabilization on; 1/125 @ f/4, ISO 400, 102mm.)

Dulles: This shot happened in the opposite way from the commuting picture.  The selected frame is one of a few shots I made checking the camera setup — before the sun actually came up.  Shooting as the sun rose, the terminal “paled” out and lost that glow.  (BTW:  I emailed the airport authority media relations office ahead of time to advise them what I would be shooting.  They only asked that I call police operations when I showed up.  The police were very pleasant when I called them.)  (38.953767, -77.451961) (Nikon D300 on tripod with Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 lens; 1/10 @ f/4, ISO 200, 32mm)

Car: I knew that I should have a road shot, so I rigged the Benbo tripod in the car.  I checked the map and saw some straight east-west stretches of Highway 7 west of Leesburg, VA.  As I drove west, I was checking my mirrors and saw that the time was right.  I made four laps back and forth between two overpasses.  A shot from earlier that morning is also posted on this blog.  (39.144473, -77.68791 to 39.143808, -77.655573) (Nikon D300 on Benbo tripod with Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens; 1/320 sec @ f/5.6, ISO 800, 11mm.)

Krakow:  I discovered how nice it is to walk around Krakow early in the morning on the last day of my first trip there.  For these pictures I had another project in mind that didn’t really pan out, but the sequence of four worked out fine for this slideshow.  The first three frames show for a little less than one second each in the slideshow.  (50.062472, 19.936835) (Olympus E-1 on tripod with Zuiko 11-22mm f/3.5 lens; 1 sec @ f/8, ISO 100, 11mm.)

Zoo:  The National Zoo in Washington DC is open around the clock.  In the summer you can beat the crowds and beat the heat by showing up really early – and also find parking in their lots.  This shot just happened.  (Nikon F100, film, on monopod with Tokina 300mm f/2.8 lens

Airplane: This is the source photo for my blog banner and is discussed in an earlier blog entry.  From a technical perspective, this is an almost hopeless picture.  The one I used in the slideshow hasn’t been fixed up in PhotoShop like the blog banner version.  (Minox EC camera, film, handheld.)

Apr 052010

Something Related to a Project…

Pre-Dawn on Route 7

Not that this has to do with much of anything, but I happened to shoot this on Sunday morning on the way to shoot some other pictures for a project.

I’m not going to use this one in the project, because I already have my quota (one) of motion-blurred pictures — but this is still a fun image.

For the technically minded, here is the photo-geeky stuff:

  • The Nikon D300 camera was set up on a Benbo Trecker tripod — the middle leg was set into the Outback’s forward cupholder.  The other two legs rested on the rear floor, one on either side of the hump.  Lateral movement was controlled by a couple of bungee cords to the front seat head restraint rods.  If you know anything about Benbo tripods, you’ll understand why this works.
  • I used a Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens.  The focal length was 11mm and the aperture was f/5.6.  Focus was preset at manual.
  • The camera’s ISO was set to 800.  The aperture priority mode was used, with 5-shot auto-bracketing.  The brackets were 1 f/stop apart.  The exposure for this shot was 1 second controlled by a Nikon electronic shutter release (squeeze and hold until all 5 shots were taken.
  • The image was recorded in RAW (NEF) so that I would have access to all the image data recorded.  Post processing was done in Adobe PhotoShop CS4.  Color temperature as adjusted to 6550K.  The white line on the right was used to set the white value in Curves.  Noise reduction was with Noise Ninja.  I Smart Sharpened it a little.

My biggest surprise was that even with the slow 1 second shutter speed and the pretty dodgy camera installation, the image is sharp enough to use — at least for the web.  Certainly not razor sharp, but sharp enough.

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